Plant-based plastic – is that all?
For some time, I have believed that public concerns about plastic will be greatly reduced if:
- Plastic can be made competitively from plant-based materials instead of from fossil fuels.
- Far more plastic waste is collected instead of discarded.
- Mechanical recycling can be replaced by enhanced recycling that breaks plastic down into its constituent parts and then creates completely new plastic over and over again.
I therefore found it extremely disappointing that the latest statistics and forecasts from European Bioplastics show plant-based PET making very limited progress. In fact, all bio-based plastics appear to be stuck in the slow lane.
- In total, across all industry sectors, bioplastics only make up about 1% of global plastic production.
- European Bioplastics forecasts they will grow by just 3% a year up to 2024.
Of that tiny total:
- Plant-based PET is set to decline from 9.8% in 2019 to 6.0% in 2024.
- The new PEF is predicted to grow from a negligible 0.0% to just 0.2%.
As European Bioplastics states: “Intentions to increase production capacities for bio-based PET … have not been realised nearly at the rate predicted in previous years, but actually declined.” PEF, which “is comparable to PET, but is fully bio-based and furthermore features superior barrier, thermal and mechanical properties, making it an ideal material for beverage bottles”, however, is only “expected to enter the market in 2023.”
That’s too long to wait. A case of far too little, too late.